I greatly admire Adam, his conviction, and his advocacy. When I saw him begin a conversation with Diane Ravitch, I jumped in, hoping that Ravitch would take my interest as incentive to respond to Adam. I wish all of our national leaders would spend some time discussing learning and stewardship with him.
Ravitch did reply, and I found myself juggling a conversation with her and a few fellow educators throughout the afternoon. I’d like to share with you and then offer a few ideas about what the conversation suggests to me about education reform. Remember to read the tweets in chronological order, or upside down, or backwards – however it’s done correctly.
Then we moved on to the importance of watching and listening.
A couple of new friends joined us shortly after that, and we spent some time getting to know one another better.
That took a while. Ravitch popped back in to reiterate her position that charters are not the answer.
Finally, we started finding common ground, even though, to borrow a phrase from Ravitch, “Chad, it’s not that simple.”
Despite my best efforts, we wound up perseverating on charters for a while. I don’t think that people realize that destroying charters destroys schools like Northwest Passage High School and the Phoenix Charter Academy. Schools such as these serve a desperate need to reach out to the kids the system ignores and sometimes helps destroy.
I left the conversation feeling compelled to help teachers like @historytunes identify and exploit the glitches, hacks, and loops left to them and their students. No one deserves a to work or learn in a system that harms them and limits them.
Before I close, I’ll share a few tweets that didn’t make it into my conversation threader (thanks, @tweetree!). Here are four regarding what we can and can’t do, what I have and haven’t read, and the importance of national political organization.
And here’s one about charter schools and their enrollment, or lack thereof, of ELL and special education students.
And now for the promised ideas.
First, educational transformation is messy, but its results will be great. As urgent as it felt to me, at time, to make myself clear or to convince a tweep of this idea or that, there was nothing wrong or nasty about today’s conversation. It just felt tough and important. My daughter fell off her swing last night and bloodied her nose. She is doing great today. She’s as irrepressible as ever. We have to be irrepressible in our effort to change public education – tearfully, joyfully so, bloodied or not.
Second, our leaders – even the ones on “our side” – won’t always understand our vision of an authentic, democratic, healthy, and sane education. Our leaders will, at times, want to repeal a law rather than revolutionize schools’ relationships to students and their learning. We will need to stand up to them, even when it is unpopular with our colleagues to do so.
Finally, when the leaders log off or turn to tweet about this appearance or that, we teachers, students, parents, and communities will be left together to hash things out – and if we can keep at it, despite the massive discomfort of reconciling our beliefs, then we’ll come away from our conversations with a deeper commitment to helping one another take action in dreaming and making some awesome schools, coöps, and unschools open to all kids through universal public education. When the leaders are gone, we are still together, and where we can’t make everything work, we can help one another make something work until we get legislation passed that protects a deeply compelling and personally meaningful education for each child.
Take away the research, the leaders, the unions, the corporations, and the government. Can we decide to do the right thing by children and their learning – classroom by classroom, school by school, and community by community? Absolutely. Will it be difficult? No doubt. Will we have to make ourselves uncomfortable? All the time.